Characteristics of successful brands
A brand is more than a company’s tagline, trademark and logo. A company’s brand must embody and communicate the company’s promise and commitment to its target. This promise reflects the company’s culture and mission. Successful brands, the ones that have been distinctive, memorable and have engendered customer loyalty over time, have all exhibited several essential attributes. Each is a necessary characteristic in order for a brand to be effective and sustaining.
Effective branding differentiates you from the competition. What promise can you own in the mind of your target market that your competition either cannot or has not? Your company does not need to be unique for you to own a unique brand position. A number of years ago a gasoline company told you they were the gas with octane and became known as the gas that gave your car energy and pep. They did not tell you that all gasoline has octane. Differentiation is job 1 for a brand. Without differentiation, all the other attributes are irrelevant.
A successful brand has to appeal to the target market. Optimum positioning strategy and the differentiating brand promise are based on a deliverable that the target values and either satisfies or stimulates a need or a want. What motivates your target? What are their buying considerations? What need or want does the purchase satisfy? What is their buying process? Who do they see as your competition? Are there multiple target segments? How are they alike? How do they differ? Which prospects do we turn into customers? Which do we lose to competition? How are they alike or different? Knowing and understanding your target is a key ingredient to the branding process.
Effective brand positioning is relevant and timely. This is a dynamic and ongoing process. The marketplace is continually changing-social trends, the economy, consumer demographics, media and other technology, competitive factors and more, all can impact the relevance of a brand’s positioning. Brands that sustain success over time monitor all of these conditions and make sure the brand evolves to maintain its relevance. A brand cannot redefine and reposition itself neither too often nor too quickly but “brand Darwinism” demands that brands evolve to stay relevant.
A brand’s positioning has to be believable. It has to make sense quickly and intuitively. When Levi’s first introduced the men’s slacks, Dockers, The name Levi’s was associated with the product. But even though the Levis brand was in the men’s pants category-the name was so strongly associated with blue jeans that it could not successfully associate itself with another type of pant. The strength of the Levi brand identity in the jean category actually diminished its ability to expand the product line. Dockers became an extremely successful brand and line of products only after the name Levi was no longer associated with it.
Successful brands, like any strong and worthwhile relationship are not built overnight. Consistent communication and performance are the ingredients to building a relationship of trust and understanding between a brand and its target. Successful brands are built over time by customer experiences that reflect the communicated brand promise and therefore meet or exceed the customer expectations. Integrated marketing communications that consistently reinforce the core brand positioning strategy are proven to be more cost effective and productive.
Brands, like so many company and business initiatives, need a champion. Someone who is focused on the brand platform, and is paying attention to competitive positioning, changes in the marketplace and all the various external and internal factors that may affect it. Branding is a dynamic process and requires attention and maintenance. Companies should perform a brand audit on an annual basis to make sure their brand strategy continues to be differentiating, appealing, credible and relevant.